What the papers say about Lord's


With South Africa winning the Test series against England 2-0, thus climbing over the Three Lions to the top of the world rankings, we rounded up some opinions from around the interwebs to see what the pundits had to say.

With South Africa winning the Test series against England 2-0, thus climbing over the Three Lions to the top of the world rankings, we rounded up some opinions from around the interwebs to see what the pundits had to say.

South African writer <b>Telford Vice</b>, in the <i>Business Day</i>, cautioned against slacking off, writing: "So this is what it looks like from the top of the world. Quite some view, and nothing to beat the feeling.

"Captain Graeme Smith and his men might have said something similar to themselves as they surveyed Lord's in London last night after being officially acknowledged as what they have, for some time, believed themselves to be: the finest team in Test cricket.

"But they would have said so quietly, because they know that, not many weeks from now, they will be in Australia, where defeat will cost them their newly wrested crown.

"If the Proteas emerge from that battle still on top of the heap, they are likely to have to put it all on the line against Pakistan in South Africa next year.

"In the logic of the gunslinger or the boxing champion, the Proteas are only as good as their last win."

Former England captain <b>Nasser Hussain</b> conceded that the Proteas were the better side, but rued the many dropped catches by England during the series. He wrote in the <i>Daily Mail</i>: "You just cannot look at history any more and say: 'It's impossible to chase nearly 350 to win a Test.' England were not far away from doing just that here at Lord's on Monday.

"Yet, all it did ultimately was increase the sense of what might have been for England. South Africa were the better side in this series, simple as that. They out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded England, with dropped catches from Andrew Strauss's team proving the most costly difference between the sides.

"If you look at how many runs the dropping of Hashim Amla at The Oval and Lord's cost, together with the expensive miss of Alviro Petersen at Headingley, you see why England have let the No 1 ranking slip from their grasp."

Another former skipper, <b>Mike Atherton</b> in <i>The Times</i>, praised South Africa's bowlers, writing: "It would have been preferable, of course, to have had five Test matches from which to draw conclusions, but over the three matches granted, there can be no doubt.

"South Africa have had the edge over England in all departments, but especially in the one – the bowling – that usually separates the good sides from the very good, the very good from the great.

"Their five-man attack got more out of a variety of conditions than England's and if Tahir was a disappointment on this final day, his strategy of bowling round the wicket into the rough was moribund long before the second new ball became due, then the pace bowlers were outstanding throughout.

"Kallis, who may not return to England again as a Test player, chipped in with crucial wickets, and Philander, Steyn and Morkel provide unparalleled fire power."

Athers added of the England side's past 12 months: "For Strauss's team, the year since accepting the ICC mace has not been kind. Six of the 11 Test matches they have played since the defeat of India this time last year have ended in defeat, in a variety of conditions and against a variety of teams.

"They have failed to build upon their achievements, even if they remain an impressive team. There is much that Strauss will regret about his year at the top, but as he looks back on this series against South Africa, he should know that there is no shame in being beaten by a better team."

<b>Stephen Brenkley</b> of <i>The Independent</i> felt England missed Kevin Pietersen, as much as they would like to deny it. He wrote: "The business with Pietersen, still unfinished, was a hindrance that reached a climax at the right time. There are more discussions to take place yet but England seem prepared to decide that he is more trouble than he is worth.

"This would be a considerable and controversial step to take but at Lord's it was evident that England missed his runs more than his presence. That it should have come to this but the constant negotiations, the posturing, the column inches, the air time have all taken their toll on England's management.

"With any other opponents they might, just, have been able to cope. It is a moot point whether their cricket was less inefficient than it was because South Africa rendered it so. But it was.

"Nine catches went down, the batting was again unreliable. It is right that Strauss's position comes under scrutiny after 107 runs in the series. But with two raw batsmen in the middle order England can hardly afford a third at the moment."

<b>Vic Marks</b>, in the <i>Guardian</i>, was full of praise for rookie Jonny Bairstow, who scored two fifties in the match. He wrote: "Some cricketers have the capacity to charm effortlessly, unwittingly. To take some extreme examples; David Gower had it; Clive Radley probably did not. Bairstow, it would appear, does have it.

"Just occasionally he plays a shot which prompts a "How the devil did he do that?" It may be his short-arm jab through mid-wicket or the silky flick off the front foot in the same direction, which is followed by him gliding down the pitch to complete his runs.

"He is a natural athlete with a keen eye and is blessed with an innate ability to time the ball. No doubt he will infuriate (like Gower) and there will often be groans of frustration when he departs early (like Gower again)."

The <i>BBC's</i> <b>Stephan Shemilt</b> looked ahead, post-defeat, to what was in store for England and skipper Andrew Strauss: "For a side that has lost six of their last 11 Tests, a trip to India, where England have not won a series since 1984-85, is a daunting assignment.

"After that come home and away series against New Zealand, with arguably the biggest period in Ashes history following. Ten Tests – five in England and five in Australia – will be crammed into six months.

"In the short term, though, England have the Pietersen issue to deal with as well as the future of Strauss. The 35-year-old looks certain to hands over the reins in the next 18 months, and a poor tour of India could hasten his departure."